Friday, May 7, 2010

SHABBAT: Understanding the Fourth Commandment

Today is the 23rd of Iyar, 5770 (38 days of Omer. 5 weeks, 3 days)

“Zakhor et Yom haShabbat leKaddesho… “ Remember the day of Shabbat to sanctify it.
This is the fourth of the Ten Commandments: our duty to remember the day of Shabbat and to consecrate it as a “special” day.
How do we perform this important Mitzva, remembering and sanctifying the Shabbat?
Meam Loez explains that there are 4 ways in which we perform this Mitzva.
1. Reciting the Kiddush, thus, reminding ourselves the foundation of Shabbat: the day God ended Creation. When saying the Kiddush we are giving testimony that we and our planet are not here by a cosmic chance but that it was God Almighty the One who created the world, life and us-intelligent life.
2. Remembering the Shabbat in our Tefilot (prayers) and especially in Birkat haMazon, when we add Retze veHachalitzenu… a text in which we mention the importance of Shabbat and we ask God to help us and allow us to live this day with joy, pleasure and peace.
3. Adding (=sanctifying) some extra time at the beginning and at the end of Shabbat. We should receive Shabbat before it officially starts (before sunset) and we should end Shabbat after it officially ends (after we see 3 stars).
4. Reciting the Habdalah, stating officially that Shabbat has ended and acknowledging the difference between the holiness of Shabbat and the rest of the week.
Next Friday, BH, we will talk about Kiddush.
Shabbat Shalom!!!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

LASHON HARA: Repairing the Damage

Today is the 22nd of Iyar, 5770 (37 days of Omer. 5 weeks, 2 days)

One of the greatest gifts haShem has given the Jewish People is the ability to cleanse ourselves of our sins through Teshuba (repentance).
When we speak Lashon haRa we cause untold damage to ourselves, to our listen­ers and to the subject of our words. We should try repair the damage, at least to some degree.
If one has spoken Lashon haRa but his listeners did not believe what was said, then the sin is one between man and God. Teshuba in such a case requires just that the person regret his sin, confess it before God Almighty and accepts upon himself never to repeat it again.
If, on the other hand, his words were accepted as fact and it resulted in harm, then more is required.
For example: A person lost an opportunity for a promotion because someone provided unnecessary or inaccu­rate negative information about him. This constitutes real damage, both monetary and emotional. In this case the three-part Teshuba outlined above would not be sufficient. One would also have to approach the victim and ask forgiveness for having spoken against him and caused him harm.
Certainly, this is a very difficult thing to do, especially, for example, if the victim had been unaware that he was being considered for a promotion. Never­theless, neither YomKippur, nor death itself, can erase a sin between man and his fellow man unless sincere forgiveness is sought and granted.
(The founder of the Mussar Movement, Rav Yisrael Salanter, found difficulty with the above stated rule. He suggested that if by telling a person that we spoke negatively about him, we will cause him additional pain and distress, then perhaps it is better not to inform him).

Adapted from : "Chafetz Chaim, a daily companion".

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

OU "The Orthodox Union"

21th of Iyar, 5770 (36 days of Omer. 5 weeks, 1 day)

In the coming weeks –on the Wednesdays’ Kashrut section- I would like to introduce the readers of Halakha of the Day to the world of “Kosher certified foods”.

I get very often many questions on this area and I believe that we need to learn what a Kosher certification means, what do they certify, what are the more common and reliable Orthodox Kosher certifications, what products need and what products do not need a Kosher certification, etc, etc.

My goal is obviously to promote a better understanding and observance of Kashrut. However, I’ve no intention whatsoever to endorse or sponsor any specific Orthodox Kashrut certification over the other.During the following weeks I will introduce the readers to a few Kashrut organizations –limiting myself to a small sample of institutions, especially those who have a Web site- with a strict educational goal.

I would like to start by introducing the most popular Kosher certification in the US: the OU. O.U. stands for “Orthodox Union” an Institution whose mission statement goes way beyond Kashrut certifications.

See for yourself visiting their web site at I recommend this page to learn about Kashrut issues: basics of Kashrut are here: also has a very effective Q&A link for Kashrut questions.

Try them and see if you get an answer.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

ELOKE ABRAHAM “The God of Abraham” (part 1)

Today is the 20th of Iyar, 5770 (35 days of Omer. 5 weeks)

The first Berakha of the Amida is known as “Birkat Abot”, the Berakha in which we mention our forefathers, Abraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akob.
By mentioning them, we first assert that we are not praying to a God who is the fruit of our own imagination or interests, but to the God of the Hebrew Bible, the same God our forefathers pray to. Abraham, as everyone knows, arrived to the knowledge of God (EMUNA) by his own reasoning and intellect.
When I say in this Berakha “The God of Abraham” I remind myself of the three major things Abraham taught us about God Almighty.
First, Abraham discerned that God has no body. We can see His actions, we might infer His amazing powers, but God remains invisible. He cannot be pictured or even represented by any image or figure.
Maimonides explains that at the beginning of humanity, people knew this fact and they considered the powerful sun and the enigmatic moon and the stars as God’s ministers, but then, manipulated by wrong leaders, men begun to attribute to the sun, moon and stars divine powers, built for them sanctuaries and worship their images, so much so that they completely “forgot” of God Almighty.
Abraham Abinu brought back to humanity the idea of the Almighty “invisible” God.
Abraham also discovered that God is One. We will talk more about the impact of Abraham’s idea about God’s unity, BH next Tuesday.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ribbit, borrowing/lending with interest

Today is the 19th of Iyar, 5770 (34 days of Omer. 4 weeks, 6 days)

There are some things which would not technically qualify as Ribbit, yet Chakhamim still forbade them because they are loopholes (“Abaq Ribbit”) that people may come to abuse. With these loopholes, the apparent objective of the Tora—that all Jews rely on each other financially when they need, without worrying about interest—would be evaded.

Some examples follow: It is forbidden to lend money in the form of an overpriced object.
Illustration: Nick asks Walter for a loan of $100. Walter suggests: “I don’t have $100 but I could ‘lend’ you my watch that is worth $100. Tomorrow you can sell it back to me for $95.”

Although this is not, strictly speaking, “Ribbit” it is nonetheless forbidden. It is likewise forbidden to “lease” cash. Leasing/renting objects is clearly permitted; however, because this can obviously serve as a loophole to evade the laws (and objectives) of Ribbit, Chakhamim forbade renting coins or bills.

Illustration: Nick needs to borrow $100. Walter tells him: “I will not ‘lend’ you the money. I will instead ‘rent’ you this $100 bill, for $5. You will return it to me when your ‘lease’ ends a month from today.”

Nick would really be paying $105 for a loan of $100. This is forbidden.

Note: the laws of “Ribbit” are very complex, especially in today’s corporate world of sophisticated financial and legal structures. Ours is a basic overview of the Halakha as found in Maimonides’s Mishne Tora and in Shulchan ‘Arukh. Please consult your rabbi with any practical questions (Halakha leMa’ase).